May 2, 2008

The new groundcover beneath the allee of linden trees

This year, we decided to plant a groundcover beneath this allee of linden trees.  I wanted something a bit out of the ordinary and also something that would remain green throughout winter.   My gardeners and I decided on native Allegheny pachysandra and leatherwood fern.  Both are hardy in this planting zone and I think they will spread into a lovely carpet quite rapidly.


There are many ways of pruning and training trees to grow in unusual shapes, and one very regal method is pleaching.  Essentially, an art form, pleaching involves intricately weaving together the branches of a row of trees.  As the trees mature, they’re meticulously trimmed, creating a hedge effect above their clear trunks.  Some that take well to pleaching are lindens, beeches, and hollies because they can tolerate constant clipping.

Coppicing and pollarding are very severe pruning methods.  When a tree is coppiced, it is regularly cut back to ground level to stimulate the growth of vigorous, new stems.  Pollarding involves cutting the branches back either to the trunk, or even all the way down to the top of the trunk, to produce a dense growth of new shoots.  These pruning methods were popular throughout history because they provided a renewable supply of firewood.  Today, gardeners use coppicing and pollarding mostly for ornamental effect, but because the size of a pollarded tree is greatly restricted, they’re also popular for street use in many crowded cities.

This is my allée of linden trees - with their pyramidal shape and slow growth, lindens are good specimens for the type of pruning called pleaching. I'll show you another photo of these trees once they leaf out. Despite the much-needed rain, the new pachysandra and ferns are laid out in position for planting as a ground cover.

This is Allegheney pachysandra.  Unlike the common Japanese variety, this native pachysandra boasts richly patterned two-toned leaves with a pleasing matte finish.

Jodi and Kim are showing off the lovely leatherwood fern.  With its dark green, leathery foliage, this fern is a perfect choice for a shady woodland garden.

I think the allée will be so beautiful when the pachysandra and ferns begin spreading.

Jodi, George, and Erica are digging and planting at a furious pace.

But there's always time for a little fun - poor George.